How to Start and Grow a Thriving Online Business

Online businesses are excellent ways to take your existing skillset or passion and to make a legacy for yourself. They are far easier to start, and done right, can be built brick by digital brick until you have a thriving business model on your hands.

Though you certainly have the time and space to grow your business and learn as you go, this is not the best way to go about starting something of your own. This is your baby. It deserves more than some slapstick attempt at launch.

The right planning, and the right strategic moves at specific points during your business’ timeline, can help you start not just an online business but to make it thrive.

Planning Your Business

A lot of the wrinkles can be ironed out in the preparation stage. You can learn what it takes to start and run a business, what legal requirements you will need to fulfill, and so much more.

If you have graduated from an online MBA program before setting out to start a business, then chances are you already know exactly what is needed to plan and create a new company. If not, know you will need the answer to these questions:

  1. Who is my customer base?
  2. What are their values?
  3. What is their price point?
  4. How can I add more value?
  5. Who are my competitors?
  6. How have they succeeded?
  7. How have they failed?
  8. How can I stand out?

Knowing the answer to these questions can help you build the framework for a great business. Before you get into the nitty-gritty, however, just focus on creating a solid business plan.

This plan is key because it will help you get small business loans from the Small Business Association or a bank or investor. They need to know you have a plan to succeed, and with a smart business plan, you have that framework to get started.

Starting Your Online Business

To start your online business, you will need:

  1. A great business plan
  2. A clear business model
  3. Your business framework

While building these three things up, it is a good idea to start marketing your new company. You can do this in a variety of ways, but a combination of a content marketing plan and digital marketing (PPC and social media marketing) is a good place to start.

When you are close to launching, you will want to get started using PR strategies to get other businesses and news media talking about your company. A good launch can help you secure a healthy customer base from the start and can really propel your business forward.

Expanding Your Online Business

Expanding is your main goal. You don’t need to be the biggest company globally, but you do need to have a healthy customer base and work to continually improve both your management process.

Improving Your Skillset

Expanding your business means greater challenges and, in most cases, more employees to manage. You may need to grow your home office, or you may be looking at opening another office in a separate location. In both situations, you need to know the ins and outs of leadership and management.

There are a few ways that you can work to get such experience. The best way, however, is with an online MBA.

An online MBA is a perfect way to learn everything you need to help you manage a growing, successful business. You cannot afford to learn as you go any longer. Instead, you need smart, effective solutions that work to strengthen your business.

Not any online MBA will do, however. There are plenty of options out there, but you specifically need an online MBA designed for online learning, which was made for working professionals and is accredited.

Accreditation might not be that important in some fields, in which case you will need to go by the degree and university ranking. In business degrees, however, it ensures that you receive a high standard of education that works for teaching you the leading management theory at the time.

To help you complete this online MBA while you are working to establish and even expand your business, use these tips:

1.    Ensure the Degree is Right for You

Look for accreditation from a leading business administration organization, such as AACSB. This will help you choose a great online MBA because you can be assured of the quality.

You should also be able to complete the degree at your own pace and on your own time. This means you can take as little as one course at a time if you are particularly busy, and more importantly, don’t have mandatory log-in times. If you have more freedom, you can work through your online MBA faster and take two of the eight-week courses per term.

The only part that really requires some thought is which specialization you will work towards. The most obvious for a business owner is to choose a Management specialization. Still, if your management skills are fairly good and you haven’t had many issues, but are weak in data analytics, or marketing, then these are better specializations to work towards. After all, many of the core curriculum in all the specializations involve management training, so you have the opportunity to really prop up weaknesses and make them into strengths by focusing on another skillset.

2.    Set Aside Time Every Day For Your Education

Consistency is key, and as a business owner, you have the power to schedule your online education more freely. Use office hours to work on your degree, and then use what you have learned to plan or to manage your team even better than you did before.

3.    Use What You Learn Immediately

You are in one of the best positions as an online MBA student – you can put what you learn to immediate practice. Not only will this allow you to see real results long before you graduate, you actually have the opportunity to get in touch with your professors and other career experts through your university for help and advice. You have the opportunity to really tailor your online MBA specifically for your degree.

Improving Your Business

While you are working to improve your own skillset as part of your expansion efforts, it is a great idea to start upgrading your business’ tools. Many of the entry-level business solutions will need to be changed or expanded on. If you started with cloud-based solutions that allow you to increase or decrease the amount of space you use, then you are already on the right track. If you haven’t been using such a tool – for any reason – it’s a good idea to look into such a solution, as they help you budget better and make it easy to expand as necessary.

Other tips to help you improve the physical capabilities of your business include:

1.    Integrated Solutions

An integrated solution is one that works together. This might sound obvious, but many tools are incapable of cross-communication. By choosing tools that work together, you can set up automation on several levels. You can set up automated tasks, from sending out payroll to ordering more stock when you are low. These automated tasks benefit in two ways.

One, you cut down on tedious admin work, saving yourself and your employees from essential but time-wasting activities.

Two, you can actually better your business by making it far more efficient by taking out the human element. A computer can send a request faster than a person can write an email explaining what they need doing. Automated requests are immediately processed; sending an email means waiting for the recipient to open it, read it, and then complete the request.

Save yourself and your employees for creative tasks instead.

2.    A Business Audit

If you are looking to expand or even just get a better handle on your overhead, then an audit is in order. You should aim to have this done at least once a year, as it will help you take note of problems and work to improve them for your company’s betterment.

If the marketing outlook is negative and there is limited business growth or operating efficiency left in the company, then financial directors might need to consider a wind-down of the company.

3.    Outsourcing

Outsourcing is a smart way to add more services to your business without hiring full-time employees. While this can be done to increase the services you offer customers, don’t ever forget about yourself. One of the best ways a digital company can protect itself, for example, is with a dedicated IT department. Most upstarts cannot afford such a team, but they can afford their outsourced services. Take note of instances where outsourcing will help you improve your business and take advantage of those partnerships.

Expanding Revenue Streams

If you think of expanding as taking your business upward, you can start to see a few problems with solely relying on just one revenue stream. Rather than a steady foundation, your business is balancing on a single stilt. This can be fine for a while, but if there are issues, your whole company can start to teeter on the edge.

2020 was a huge wake-up call for many mono-businesses. Even some of the most established business models suffered massively, and today’s business leaders cannot take that risk again. By increasing your revenue streams, you not only make yourself more valuable to your customers or clients, but you also weather future crises better.

This does not mean you should just start offering something without putting the proper amount of planning into it. A haphazard new service that does not live up to the same level of quality is a new revenue stream in name only. Your business deserves a thought-out, fully realized new business model.

1.    Expand Services or Product Ranges

The first way you can expand your revenue stream is to start offering more digital services or selling new product ranges through your online store. Think carefully about what would add more value for your customers or clients – and remember, you don’t necessarily have to add operations during this step.

For example, you could offer SEO services on top of your web development services. Rather than having an on-site SEO specialist, you can outsource and pass on the work to such a specialist while keeping a percentage for the referral. It’s a great way to expand, even if you may not be at the time in your business to bring on new employees.

2.    Collaborate

Collaboration is another great way to expand and ground your business. There are a few ways that you can do this. If you sell products, collaborate with artists or other big names to offer special product ranges for a limited time sale.

You could also offer your services through other businesses. As a web development company, for example, you could partner with a website theme maker. They offer your services so that you can customize and set up the theme perfectly to the customer’s liking. The theme maker offers more value, and you get more customers.

Reinvention: Keeping Your Business Relevant

Businesses that don’t keep an eye on the future are doomed to fail. The taxi industry could have been spared the disruption that was ride-sharing by offering a single, integrated taxi app early on and options to make it cheaper and more affordable to use the taxi service. Instead, they relied on old methods and were hurt in the process.

You don’t want just to play catch-up either. There are many on-demand television services today, but the only ones who have been able to really take center stage (aside from the disruptor that is Netflix) are those with massive budgets to start with. Prime has Amazon backing it, and now Disney+, which is powered by one of the world’s largest companies.

Smaller streaming services are fighting to keep up, but the chances that they will take over a significant market share without disrupting the industry again in some way are rather slim.

You must work to reinvent to stay relevant. You don’t need to be a disrupting business, but you need to follow your competition closely so that you offer the key services and value that makes you a forward-thinking business. This way, you won’t fall behind and instead can rely on your old business model while breaking waters in the new world of tomorrow.

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